Bauble Buzz: Jewelry Designers Reimagine Age-Old Pieces

Elizabeth Harper | November 8, 2020 | Style & Beauty Style & Beauty Feature

As the festive season nears, add a dash of whimsy, a dose of sparkle and a sprinkling of panache to holiday ensembles—courtesy of the latest and greatest in fine jewelry from heritage makers and independent designers.

Bvlgari Barocko High Jewelry ring in white goldBvlgari Barocko High Jewelry ring in white gold with 22.74-carat cushion rubellite and pavé-set diamonds and Barocko High Jewelry ring in platinum with 10.15-carat rectangular emerald, 1.27-carat emerald-cut diamond and pavé-set diamonds,

Under a cloak of mystery and an air of exclusivity, fine jewelry inhabits a sphere admired by many and obtainable by few. In a marriage of time-honored traditions, vivid gemstones and intellectual silhouettes, the latest collections answer the decidedly more casual, practical face of 2020 with whimsy, delight and an infectious joie de vivre. As we remain steadfastly socially distanced, why not dress in diamond-bespeckled timepieces, ruby-dotted chokers and bonbon- inspired earrings? It’s a Cinderella moment—fairy godmother waiting in the wings.

As if nicked from the Queen’s jewels, Bvlgari’s latest high jewelry is a lesson in royal glamour. Under the guise of Rome’s Baroque period, the Barocko collection is formed of fanciful shapes, enriching elegance and precious gems sourced by Lucia Silvestri, Bvlgari’s creative director for jewelry. The ornate pieces, she says, “celebrate the Baroque movement in the Bvlgari way, which is very contemporary.” Architectural inspiration from ages past is reinterpreted through a modern, feminine lens for envy-inducing one- of-a-kind jewels. “Baroque,” Silvestri notes, “is in our Roman DNA.”

Paris-based fine jewelry brand Colette, too, reinvents an antiquity. Drawing on the fierce legacy of Aztec warriors, its Penacho collection is a celebration of the ancient headdresses, rendered in a sleek, universally appealing (read: neutral) palette. “The collection was created as an homage to my Mexican heritage, giving permanence to Aztecan warriors,” says founder Colette Steckel. “The headdresses were inherently edgy, with vibrant feathers that emulated the warriors’ power and fearlessness”—a notion captured in the geometric, fan shape of the mother-of-pearl-, onyx-, pearl- and diamond-laden pieces. “I don’t believe a design has to be colorful to be bold,” she declares. “The black- and-white color palette highlights the graphic silhouette and almost makes the jewelry feel like armor.”

Colette 18K yellow gold Penacho ringColette 18K yellow gold Penacho ring with white diamonds, onyx and mother-of-pearl,

Jewelry, clothing, accessories as an armor of expression—it’s a comforting sentiment to the fashion beguiled. Add an artist collaboration and the quotidian becomes sartorial catnip. And when it’s a notoriously exclusive brand? Hold on to your purse strings. In a collection of historical significance, Fabergé allies with London-based creative James Ganh for its first-ever featured designer capsule. “Like our founder Peter Carl Fabergé all those years ago, we continue to believe in the art of collaboration and friendship with like-minded individuals and partners,” says Josina von dem Bussche-Kessell, global sales director. “Beauty often appears at the intersection of idea and interpretation, and that creative exchange of influences, references and perspective is so exciting.”

Faberge x James Ganh ring jewelryFabergé x James Ganh ring,

Pulling from his personal archive and the atelier’s rich catalog, Ganh presents a series of buildable creations rife with pearls, diamonds, precious stones and an undeniable whimsy befitting Fabergé’s code. “[Peter Carl’s] passionate and innovative artisan spirit inspired my designs and encourages me to push the boundaries of jewelry both aesthetically and functionally,” says Ganh. Referencing the founder’s penchant for florals and animals, Fabergé x James Ganh recalls the ethereal beauty of nature, its rainbow of colors and its organic silhouettes. “I had fun playing with the element of surprise,” he adds. “You can find subtle mechanical elements built into a number of designs that allow them to transform beautifully.” In this new world order—and an emerging trend in fine jewelry—he explains, “pendant heads become statement rings and earrings morph into bracelets,” for a topsy-turvy Alice in Wonderland-like spin on the classics.

In a similarly enchanting study of nature, Piaget’s Wings of Light soars with the majesty of birds of paradise at its core. “We explore the ‘Piaget jungle’ through the eyes of a bird, offering us the possibility to discover unique sceneries,” says Christophe Bourrié, global high jewelry and exceptional creations director. “It inspires a feeling of freedom, which is important given the current context.” The escapist nature of the collection is witnessed in the Majestic Plumage set, with tropical-hued gems and feather marquetry by renowned artist Nelly Saunier. While some pieces are literal in their interpretation, others take a more nuanced approach to Piaget’s jungle. As Majestic Plumage captivates with bird song, the Jungle Breeze family, for example, is a delicate whisper—a sweeping of diamonds in concert with malachites and chrysoprase befitting the verdant landscape.

Piaget Wings of Light high jewelry earringsPiaget Wings of Light high jewelry Jungle Breeze earrings,

High jewelry takes a practical yet equally mesmerizing turn with revelation of new “secret” timepieces. These hidden treasures are encased in dazzling jewels but possess impressive technical movements— with faces discreetly housed beneath bedazzled coverings. Graff’s Peony secret watch is encased entirely in a bouquet of diamonds, whereas Van Cleef & Arpels’ iconic Ludo is reborn after nearly a century.

Graff Peony diamond secret watchGraff Peony diamond secret watch,

Van Cleef and Arpels Ludo timepieceVan Cleef & Arpels Ludo timepiece,

Adhering the house’s couture codes, “We felt the Ludo bracelet, which was born in the ’30s, had that dimension that could today be again looked at as a relevant and contemporary design that associates the idea of suppleness and movement with boldness and geometry of shape,” says President and CEO Nicolas Bos of the modernized re-edition. Legacy of design and craftsmanship has long played a role in fine jewelry, and for Nigerian-born, London-based jeweler Thelma West, it is her essence. Giving new life to vintage and antique pieces, her designs offer a singular point of view, while upholding the utmost respect for the stones’ history. “Vintage pieces I acquire come with a story,” says West, “and honoring the journey of each gem is important to my art.” Like her unique pieces, West’s all-women studio is a haven of creativity. “My aim was to create a safe space not just for myself, but for other women regardless of race, age or sexual orientation,” she explains. “I draw on my experience to help them find their voice in the predominantly male diamond world.”

Joon Han pink and diamond earringsJoon Han rubellite, pink tourmaline and diamond earrings,

Femmes of industry across the globe, like Steckel, West, Melissa Kaye and Joon Han, are making an impression on the state of fine jewelry, offering a sophisticated edge to couturelike pieces. For New York-based Kaye, her signature luminescent enamel designs get the diamond treatment for a vibrant, of-the-moment yet elevated allure. Now, Kaye introduces the Ada collection: “It has great proportions, substantial weight and a really luxurious feel,” she muses. "The neon collection quickly became a huge part of the brand, giving our signature silhouette an air of fashion-forward ‘fun luxury.’” With a familiar playful, artistic approach, Han's confections are as at-home in a patisserie as at a black-tie affair. Her one-of-a-kind pieces are an ode to expression: “Art is a powerful creative process authentic to each artist, and it has the power to reach out and deeply touch us,” she says. “In the same way, jewelry design is an imaginative process, and people intuitively respond to beautiful jewelry emotionally.”

Melissa Kaye yellow gold Ada ring imageMelissa Kaye 18K yellow gold Ada ring with neon orange enamel and diamonds,

Thelma West rose and yellow gold drop earringsThelma West 18K white, rose and yellow gold Eden drop earrings with Colombian emeralds, Botswanan pink diamonds and white trillion-cut diamonds,

As if plucked from a fairy tale, the season of galas, soirees and events galore returns. While celebrations may look different as 2020 comes to a close, welcome the new rule of dressing: Exquisite fine jewelry and spectacular wares are appropriate for any occasion—whether virtual fete or intimate holiday dinner. Meet your new closet staples.

Tags: jewelry

Photography by: Colette photo by STK Photo; Joon Han photo by Panos Narkizian; Melissa Kaye photo by Tomoya Hara; Thelma West photo by Simon Martner; All other photos courtesy of brands